From Martele To Music

Presentation at 2013 ASTA Conference

Article created: 04/16/2013

Rebecca Henry

ASTA National Conference • Providence, RI • Saturday March 2, 2013

Martelé to Music

presented by

Rebecca Henry

Peabody Conservatory and Preparatory -

Gettysburg College Sunderman Conservatory -


  • What is the Martelé?


  • Definition


  • Execution


  • Ivan Galamian


  • Martelé vs. Staccato


  • Why Martelé?


  • It is easiest to become more aware of balance when the bow is stopped.


  • The martelé trains the thumb and fingers to release tension.
    • Resonance of the string
    • Injury prevention


  • Through the study of martelé we can improve
    • how the arm, hand, wrist and fingers work
    • bow distribution
    • the relationship between bow distribution and pulse
    • left hand/right hand coordination


  • Martelé is the foundation stroke of all other strokes. 


  • Through martelé, we can develop an artistic bow arm that is flexible and able to respond to and serve our musical imagination. 


DEMONSTRATION featuring Anne-Marie and Skye, who study with R. Henry

at The Peabody Preparatory



  1. Martelé at the Upper Half
    1. Best time to adjust and find balance when the bow is sitting on the string.
    2. Articulation – Feel the string, then pull         
      1. Release tension in the thumb – injury prevention
      2. Feel/hear/see the string vibrate
    3. Isolation of the forearm at Upper Half (UH)


Set bow at Middle; tap 1, 23, 4

Open A martelé UH

AEA with the Bow

Suzuki: Perpetual Motion

Corelli: La Folia



  1. Martele at the Lower Half  - Focus on the Frog
    1. Martelé is critical in finding comfort at and balance at the frog.
    2. Moving from middle to frog – upper arm moves across
    3. Pinky Pushups
    4. Let the stick sit on the string and balance with the fingers.  Barely hold the bow.
    5. Martelé scales at the frog


Poofs (1/2 bow martelé; Middle (tap 2&3) – Tip(tap 4) – Middle(tap 2&3) – Frog (tap 1) – Middle (tap 2&3)

Silent Bow Placements (with finger taps as above)

Pinky Pushups on E; in the air

Frog Scales: D Major, 2x LH  Mart.

     Pinky pushup; thumb off/on; bent pinky (alternate bent on 1st knuckle, and regular)

Bartók: Rumanian Dances,  V



  1. Left Hand/Right Hand Coordination
    1. Finger Before Bow (FBB)
    2. String Crossings – end each stroke on the new string with the new finger down.


Vivaldi: Concerto in a minor – UH - FBB stop on new string

Kreutzer No. 7 – UH - FBB stop on new string

Kreisler: Praeludium & Allegro opening WB martelé and détaché



  1. Bow Distribution
    1. Relationship between pulse and bow distribution.
    2. Scales, martelé then legato, with equal distribution
    3. Repertoire, martelé then legato, with unequal Distribution to serve the music.
    4. String crossings in runs – Finger Before Bow; stop bow on the new string.


G Scale 2, 6, M & L; 8 M&L, 12, 24 L

Handel: Chorus (Suzuki Bk. 2)

Bach: Gavotte in g minor (Suzuki Bk. 3)

Gluck/Kreisler: Melodie

Bruch: Concerto in g minor, I





  1. Whole bows –Martelé and Legato
    1. Whole Bow Martelé – arm must drop with stick; flexible fingers adapt
    2. Transfer of Balance in the bow hand during legato
    3. Legato bow changes at the frog require perfect balance


 WB martelé

Rocket Ship (bow game)-observe thumb

Down234, Up234

Down, release 4,3,2; Up add 2,3,4

D Scale legato half notes



  1. The first note – starting from the string (for years) and Chords
    1. Set/Wobble/Breathe/Play in the practice
    2. Touch and go
    3. Breathe and go with bow and vibrato in motion.


Bach: Minuet I (Suzuki Bk. 1)

Massenet: Meditation from “Thaïs”

Haydn: Concerto No. 2 in G, I

Bruch: Concerto in g minor, I-chords



  1. Collé Action and Collé
    1. Baby Poofs - Flick the wrist on the string at balance point
      1. Middle-down-mid-up-mid (Hold arm)
    2. Set and flick the wrist to lift the bow (thumb pivots)


Collé preparation: Baby Poofs on A

Bach: Gavotte (Suzuki Bk. 5)

Kreutzer No. 7

Bartôk: Rumanian Dances, V

Mozart: Rondo in C




  1. Spiccato         
    1. Also depends on balance and flexibility that is best trained on the string first until the fingers have the strength and flexibility to truly balance the stick in the air.
    2. Balance 4 fingers equally – especially pinky
    3. Large muscles drive spiccato, while loose wrist/fingers follow.
    4. Add collé motion to spiccato to add spice and articulation
      1. Don’t use wrist only; needs arm support.
    5. Practicing martelé/détaché/spiccato helps find the balance of each stroke.



Big spiccato circles

Mollenhauer: The Infant Paganini

Severn: Polish Dance –martelé, spiccato, add collé fingers

Bartôk: Rumanian Dances, V

Mozart: Rondo in C



  1. Up bow Staccato
    1. Martelé becomes staccato when smaller
    2. The end of one note (in the bow) IS the beginning of the next.


Kreutzer No. 4



  1. Portato
    1. Martelé, slur, combination


Viotti : Concerto No. 23



  1. Artistry
    1. The martelé should be articulated clearly in the early stages of learning a piece, then may gradually evolve into an “in between” stroke depending on the musical requirements.
    2. Tapers – Thumb/finger pressure heavy to light; bow speed fast to slow
    3. The Martelé training helps a beautifully sculpted legato phrase, as the thumb and fingers have learned to be flexible and can mimic the voice.  While at first we want to develop the ability to play a sustained, even, tone with one bow speed, once they can control that you can start experimenting, often letting a long note dissipate, then “replaying” a small pick up as if you were singing.


Haydn: Concerto No. 2 in G

Gluck/Kreisler: Melodie

Bruch: Concerto in g minor, I



The martelé stroke is a beautiful teaching tool that helps train

 and organize a flexible and ultimately artistic bow arm. 

 I view this is an intensely musical process, with artistry and freedom of expression as the goal.